With the disruption caused by the COVID-19 measures being implemented, we took a pause and did not publish the Renewable Energy Update last week. As we resume, we begin by expressing our thanks and our best wishes for the health and safety of you and your universe of family, friends, and co-workers. Allen Matkins attorneys are all working remotely, supported by our staff. While it is hardly “business as usual,” things in the renewable energy world are still happening, and we want to keep you up to date.
Barry, Dana, and Bill
The U.S. Senate approved a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill on Wednesday, but the package does not include the tax credit extensions and direct pay provisions sought by the wind and solar industries to help them weather the supply-chain and economic disruptions caused by the global pandemic. Clean-energy industry groups confirmed Wednesday that the stimulus bill, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, lacks extensions of the federal wind Production Tax Credit and solar Investment Tax Credit, which would have prevented them from losing access to full credits and threatening their financial viability. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislative package on Friday morning, sending the bill to President Donald Trump's desk.
California's plans to use microgrids to limit the 2020 impacts of preventive power outages to reduce wildfire risks will be delayed after utility solicitations revealed cost and deployment complexities. Bids in response to solicitations by the state's two biggest investor-owned utilities found that only temporary microgrid deployments are financially viable and that none will meet clean energy advocates' call for including customer-owned distributed energy resources. For 2020, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison's high costs and the urgency of the approaching wildfire season make it necessary to focus on microgrids that rely on temporary fossil fuel-powered solutions, they said. In 2021, stakeholders expect to return to the debate about their differing approaches to permanent microgrids.
Installing and maintaining renewable energy resources can be viewed as an “essential service,” according to the California Solar + Storage Association. The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the state’s Department for Public Health has ordered that all individuals obey instructions to “stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”
The U.S. solar market installed 13.3 gigawatts of capacity in 2019, a 23 percent rise compared to the year before, new figures show. According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, solar represented almost 40 percent of new electricity generating capacity added in the U.S. last year. The cumulative operating photovoltaic capacity – the running total – in the U.S. now stands at more than 76 gigawatts. Looking ahead, Wood Mackenzie is forecasting annual growth of 47 percent for this year, with almost 20 gigawatts of installations. Potential headwinds loom on the horizon, however. The SEIA said it was “closely monitoring changes to the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the release of this publication, the full impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the solar industry are still developing.
In a move that could spur more military microgrid projects, the U.S. Department of Navy has adopted a resilience policy to enable key installations to go off-grid for at least two weeks by late 2025. The U.S. Navy and Marines Corps aim to have “assured energy whenever and wherever it’s required,” according to the Installation Energy Resilience Strategy released March 13. Navy and Marine Corps energy managers must reach out to utilities and private sector experts to collaborate on initiatives to reduce vulnerabilities, add redundancy, and improve energy management, Lucien Niemeyer, Navy acting assistant secretary for energy, installations, and environment, said in the plan. The Navy noted it has successfully entered into public-private partnerships to develop distributed energy projects. The plan highlighted Navy and Marine Corps projects at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Marine Corps has installed a microgrid at the Miramar base in California. The project has 11.2 megawatts of on-site generation, including diesel, natural gas, landfill gas, and solar.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has opened a 45-day public comment period on the proposed Yellow Pine Solar Project that would be located about 10 miles southeast of Pahrump and 32 miles west of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada. The move comes after the BLM released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the environmental impacts of the 250-megawatt Yellow Pine Solar Project. Some environmental groups, however, have called on the BLM to delay the comment period in light of the COVID-19 crisis because the agency will not be able to hold in-person public meetings.
Lightsource BP has successfully closed on a $250 million financing package for its Impact Solar project located in Lamar County, Texas, northeast of Dallas. The energy generated by the 260-megwatt project will be traded through a long-term agreement with BP. Lightsource BP and project investors will fund an estimated $250 million into the solar plant. It is expected to create almost 300 jobs in construction, operations, maintenance, and asset management.